Right now, there are about 1,100 satellites whizzing above our heads performing various functions like observation, communication, and spying. There are roughly another 2,600 doing nothing, as they died or were turned off a long time ago.
How did each of these satellites get up there? And what nations are responsible for sending up the bulk of them?
The answers come in the form of this bewitching visualization of satellite launches from 1957 – the year Russia debuted Sputnik 1 – to the present day. (The animation starts at 2:10; be sure to watch in HD.) Launch sites pop up as yellow circles as the years roll by, sending rockets, represented as individual lines, flying into space with one or more satellites aboard.
It was the sign advertising Brylcreem that got me. It can be seen in one of Chalmers Butterfield’s colour photographs of Piccadilly Circus in 1949. Why did it move me? Brylcreem’s range of hair styling products for men is still very much with us. Personally, though, it always means the red plastic pot of the stuff my dad kept ever-ready in the bathroom of our home in the 1970s. It spoke then, and does now, of his youth in austerity Britain, skiffle-board Britain, Teddy Boy Britain.
What is nostalgia? For me it’s triggered by the sense that my parents might be young people in Butterfield’s deep colour vistas of the West End of London. For enthusiasts who post historic photographs on Twitter, it’s more broadly scattered. These pictures reveal the wealth of photographic documents, memories and arcana that these sites have dragged into the 21st-century limelight, from an 1890s portrait of Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female advocate and the first woman to study law at Oxford University, to the building of the Hoover dam in Roosevelt’s America.
History and nostalgia are not the same thing. Looking again at Piccadilly Circus in 1949, its historical evidence is crisp and unsettling. In its eerily immediate colours, you can see an underlying chromatic order. All the people are wearing brown, grey, black or a daring dark blue. Buses provide a refreshing redness, but cars mainly come in any colour you like so long as it’s black. Austerity is not something the historians made up – you really can see, in this picture, the limitations of life in a postwar Britain regulated by ration books. No wonder everyone smoked (another habit of the age my parents took with them to later life). A giant cigarette in an ashtray advertises Craven “A” high above Piccadilly Circus. It’s a reminder that George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four in the year Butterfield took his pictures – the relentless smoker’s ads resemble his totalitarian hoardings for Victory cigarettes.
Dreams of Space is an excellent blog that focuses on a single subject: nonfiction kids books about space flight between the years 1945 and 1975. The publisher, John Sisson, recently posted scans from a 1961 Russian children’s book called As We Were Flying on a Rocket. The photos are wonderful.
I love stuff like this. Maybe it’s a northern thing. From The Calvert Journal:
With more and more cinemas in Russia losing out to multiplexes, photographer Sergey Novikov sought to capture the old buildings in their new incarnations — sometimes abandoned, sometimes used for discos and fairs or taken over by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Breathless was shot in Moscow and St Petersburg between 2010 and 2011 by Novikov, a graduate of the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and Multimedia. “I prefer an engrossing film to disgusting popcorn,” he says. “I don’t mind shifting about in a squeaky chair, soaking in the atmosphere of an old cinema. Unfortunately, the films have already left them.” Novikov’s work, which has been published in magazines such as Russian Esquire and Italian Rolling Stone, covers a wide range of subjects from Belgian beer to Icelandic landscapes. In 2011, he self-published FC Volga United, a book of photos about football fans who live along the Volga, Europe’s longest river.
Finding their adult poetry impossible to publish, with its absurdist imagery and aesthetically radical approach, they turned to writing for children. In that field they could earn a living and work without too much interference from the authorities. They could also collaborate with equally avant garde visual artists such as Vladimir Tatlin, the designer of the famous unbuilt Monument to the Third International, and El Lissitzky, the suprematist painter, typographer, and graphic designer.
Partly because of such collaborations, and partly because children’s books provided a hiding place for a while, the early Soviet period was a miraculously rich time for children’s books and their illustration. A new book, Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’s Literature 1920-1935 offers a glimpse into that astonishing world. The designer, Julian Rothenstein, and the writer of an essay in the book, Olga Budashevskaya, have produced something truly remarkable. Brilliant primary colours, simple geometrical shapes – at first sight it looks like a textbook of suprematism, the movement that emerged from the intellectual ferment of pre-revolutionary Russia to express the supremacy of pure, artistic feeling above the mere depiction of objects. In the hands of Kazimir Malevich, for example, the great theoretician of suprematism, a black square expressed such feeling, and the white field on which it appeared was the void beyond all feeling.